HOW TO DEBRIEF WITHOUT BURDENINGJun 14, 2022
Unicorns pooping slime? Why is this even a thing?!
My children have been obsessed with slime.
This must be a common experience because the toy industry has developed every way in which slime can be marketed.
I have avoided slime in my house as much as possible, but often my girls will come home from a birthday party or play date with slime that they have made (clearly they have way cooler parents than me).
At first chance, the slime will go in the garbage. But first, they insist on playing with it. Ugh…
And the slime goes EVERYWHERE!
And it sticks to EVERYTHING!
Have you ever come home after a difficult day and dumped on your spouse?
The innocent “How was your day?” question resulted in the unloading of the sadness, trauma and problems that you witnessed that day.
Or perhaps you are the opposite. You come home from a long day and retreat from everyone, seeking time to process and transition from the heavy day that you have faced.
Well friend, when we overshare with our spouse, friend or colleague we are sliming them. We are passing along the sticky trauma and they are now covered in slime.
When helpers hear and see difficult things in the course of their work, it is a normal reaction to want to debrief with someone, to alleviate a little of the burden that they are carrying.
God even instructs us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to stir each other up in love and not to neglect to meet together to encourage one another.
And in Philippians 2:4 to “look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”
It is healthy to turn to others for support and validation.
God intended for us to come together to share, encourage and build each other up. However, sometimes we unintentionally perpetuate trauma by sharing graphic details or oversharing.
Is it possible to debrief and alleviate the burden without sliming everyone around us? Is there are way to talk about our work, yet maintain confidentiality?
I want to introduce you to a concept by Laurie Anne Pearlman and Karen Saakvitne called limited disclosure or Low Impact Debriefing. It is used to minimize the passing on of trauma by helpers who are informally debriefing with others.
Low Impact Debriefing or LID gives you the freedom to talk and share with others without fear of re-traumatizing them and still provides you with the support needed in sharing about your difficult work.
Low Impact Debriefing involves 4 key steps:
- Fair warning
- Limited disclosure
If you are an over-sharer, take note of when and whom you are sharing information with.
Were all those details really necessary to the storytelling? Or could you have given a
summarized version and still passed on the necessary information?
Or if you tend to bottle everything up, what do you fear will happen if you share your experiences with others? What would be helpful to you in dealing with difficult stories?
It’s important to know what we need in debriefing. Often times I just need someone to validate my work because I feel helpless and frustrated in the situation; therefore sharing the details aren’t necessary.
2. FAIR WARNING
In everyday life when we are about to share bad or difficult news we often give a small warning that something negative is coming.
We say things like “I have some bad news to tell you” or “You’d better sit down”. This allows the listener to brace themselves to hear what you are going to say.
The same principle applies for debriefing. If someone asks “How was your day?” and you share the graphic details of your day spent bedside at the hospital without giving them notice or warning the listener may be stunned or startled.
It is important to provide fair warning to those we are going to share with so they can ready themselves to hear what might be difficult information.
After you have given a warning to the listener, you need to ask for consent. It can be as simple as saying, “I need to debrief something with you, is this a good time?” or “I heard something really hard today, could I talk to you about it?”
The listener then has a chance to decline or to qualify what they are able and ready to hear. For example, a family member might say to you, “I’m right in the middle of something, can we talk later tonight?” Or a co-worker could ask “Is this about children (or whatever the trigger is)? If it’s about children, I’m probably the wrong person to talk to; but otherwise, I’m fine to hear it.“
No one likes to get bulldozed when someone says “Hey, got a minute..” and they don’t wait to hear the answer but rush right into the story.
Giving space and permission for the person to answer builds trust and removes any guilt for sharing from you because they have provided you with permission and boundaries.
4. LIMITED DISCLOSURE
Now that you have received consent, you can decide how much of the story you will share.
Imagine your story as being contained inside a circle or bowl. Start your story on the outer edge of the circle, which is the least traumatic information and slowly move around the circle gradually towards the core of the very traumatic information.
You give the opportunity for the listener to control the flow of what you are sharing.
In the end, you may not need to tell the graphic details. In times when you need to share details ensure that you are maintaining confidentiality and the person who you are debriefing with is appropriate.
When you have used the Low Impact Debriefing strategy you are aware of your own needs for debriefing and you have warned the listener so they are able to brace themselves for what they are about to hear.
You have gained permission and set boundaries, starting the story on the outer edge with the least amount of graphic detail.
This process gives you the freedom to share and allows the listener the opportunity to ready themselves and limit the content according to their needs. Respecting both their needs and yours.
Free download of an article from LID developers Laurie Anne Pearlman and Karen Saakvitne.